Regardless of the worth of homework, there are certain situations when homework doesn't work at all. As teachers, we know it's important to recognise how homework fits into the curriculum
Have you heard the story of the student who asked his teacher if he would ever be punished for something he did not do? Well, the story continues. The teacher said ‘of course not’. Turns out that the student was relieved...he hadn’t done his homework again... All kidding aside, there are some valid reasons when homework doesn’t work at all.
Homework just doesn’t work when:
1. An emergency hits
We know the excuses: couldn’t find it, brother ripped it up, dog ate it … but let’s face it, if there is a true family emergency, then a student can’t be expected to do homework. This could range from the electricity going out or the computer system malfunctioning to someone having an accident or needing to go to the hospital.
2. Other more important assignments take precedent
If there is an assignment (paper, project, test, etc.) in another subject that impacts a grade to a stronger degree or if the student needs to boost a grade or has a stronger interest in a different subject, then homework just won’t get done in every subject.
3. It provokes an overwhelming feeling
Do you know what this feels like? Instead of coping with the assigned work, it is just too much. Maybe the assignment could have been organised and broken down into smaller more manageable pieces so it could be completed by the deadline date. Maybe for a whole bunch of other reasons it is just too much. A common reaction is to just give up completely.
4. The student does not value it
Without a perceived need to do homework (whether a link to more understanding or acquiring more knowledge, to having relevance to real-life or future studies/career, or maybe even without reinforcement from home), this is not a value that a student wants to swap his/her time for.
5. Competing interests prevent it from being a priority
Let’s see …music and sports, friends and jobs … you get the picture. What to choose and how to organise all of the interests plays a big role.
6. There is little understanding of how to do it
You can only try so much … asking a parent or a friend … looking on-line or back at previous assignments and work covered in class. But if you don’t understand the material, if it wasn’t covered as much as it should have been in class, or if you just tuned out, then doing homework might be counter-productive.
7. Access to technology/resources are limited
Assignments based on all students having all the necessary software and gadgets or that all students can easily arrange a mutual time to work on a group project may not be the way to go. Already it puts some students at a disadvantage and impedes them from doing quality work or, in some cases, any work altogether.
8. Lack of structure interferes
Perhaps the student does not have the assignment clearly written down or all of the materials to do the work. They may not have a place to work at home that is uninterrupted to help speed the process of getting the homework completed.
9. It is beyond the ability of the student
It is too difficult. Similar work may not have been covered enough in class or the student did not understand the skill or concept to the degree needed to complete independent practice at home.
10. The work is too repetitive and not meaningful
On the flip side, if a student can do the work already or it is too much of the same thing, then what is the purpose of it? Busy work or relevance? Just enough or overload?
When setting homework it's important to think about the impact this task is going to have, and how you're going to help ensure that the work you set is going to help your students. This of course is relevant to the content of work you're setting, but you also need to take into account the factors listed above - there are other aspects of life that can have an impact on the work you set which need to be taken into consideration.